Simon Beck: Snowshoe Art Extraordinaire

For an artist, Englishman Simon Beck’s creative process is a relatively short one; from start to finish, his average piece requires 10 hours of work. But considering his ‘work’ involves trekking across vast frozen fields to leave distinct impressions in the fresh snow, 10 hours seems like a long, cold time. Meet the world’s foremost snowshoe artist.

Beck carves most of his masterpieces at Les Arcs, a ski resort in the French Alps where he purchased a winter apartment in 2004. Not long after moving there, he began making patterned markings on a frozen reservoir that lay nearby. At first Beck used boots to make his distinct impressions (mostly for fun, he says), and then got serious about his new-found hobby and started incorporating snowshoes into his repertoire.

Beck told Snowshoe Magazine that he initially designs the geometrical patterns on paper using a protractor. Once the draft is finished, he heads to the outdoor canvas and recreates the shape using an arsenal of orienteering tools, including a hand-held compass and measuring tape. He says the ideal surface is uniformly flat, with roughly four to six inches of fresh powder — but barring a sudden blizzard, the artist generally makes do with whatever Mother Nature provides. When heavy snowfall wipes his latest installation from the landscape, the artistic process begins anew.

He added that each rendering is physically exhausting. “It’s like hitting a wall — you suddenly run out of steam,” he said. “You need to have both food and warm clothing with you.” And while Beck has always worked alone, he admits that creating his artwork would be much safer if he had a partner to watch his back and seek help in case of an emergency.

Last October, Beck was awarded the Most Extreme Art Award by New York’s Society of Unique Artists. He credits the Internet for his new-found fame; many breath-taking photos of his work (including the images in the gallery below) can be found on his official Facebook page.

By Brad Nehring